Landscapes of Production and Punishment: Tasman Peninsula 1830-1877

This project has been made possible through an ARC Discovery Grant 2017 (DP170103642).

Early colonial Australia has been variously depicted as a brutal and exploitative place and a relatively free society where even convicts enjoyed higher living standards than the bulk of the British and Irish labouring poor.

The confusion is largely due to the complexity of the management of convict labour. The work that convicts performed ranged from the very skilled to labour intensive manual work performed in irons.

It is widely recognised there were fluctuations in the demand for colonial labour and changes in administrative practices and that these impacted on the management of convicts. However, there is little understanding of the way this worked in practice, evolved over time, or impacted on the physical environment.

This interdisciplinary project uses a range of innovative digital humanities techniques to explore the physical impact of convict labour on both landscape and convict bodies. It does this by integrating three exceptional longitudinal data series:

  • the archaeological record for the Tasman Peninsula, including the UNESCO World Heritage listed sites of Port Arthur and the Coal Mines
  • life course data for 12,000 convicts that served on the Peninsula
  • the administrative records generated as a result of forty-seven years of convict labour management.

This collaboration between archaeologists and historians will result in the development of holistic management and interpretive tools that will align Australia’s UNESCO Memory of the World registered convict records with two of its most important World Heritage listed sites.

The project aims to chart how evolving labour management practices:

  • impacted on Australia’s most iconic convict landscape.
  • are reflected through changes in the punishments experienced by convicts on the Tasman Peninsula.
  • influenced those convicts’ life and work experiences, including their post-incarceration careers.
  • help to contextualize the evolution of convict labour practices on the Tasman Peninsula in relation to other Australian and international landscapes of labour extraction.

The Project Team

Professor Martin Gibbs;

Associate Professor David Roberts;

Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart;

Professor Barry Godfrey;

Dr Richard Tuffin

Dr David Roe;

Dr Jody Steele;

Ms Susan Hood.